All posts by Corrine Pratt

What Type of Way: Post-Structuralism and Rich Homie Quan

Since its release in 2013, Rich Homie Quan’s masterwork, “Type of Way” has drawn the attention of rap-enthusiasts and literary critics alike. It could be argued that “Type of Way” is a vapid song whose vague lyrics refuse even to describe how, exactly, the speaker feels. It has been said that Rich Homie Quan’s song does not state a particular feeling, rendering the lyrics “feel some type of way” meaningless. After all, doesn’t everyone always feel some type of way? As the author refuses to describe the particular type of way the narrator is feeling, the entirety of the song is unclear. Which type of way does the speaker feel, critics wonder, and to what intensity do they feel this way? However, a closer, and critical, examination of Rich Homie Quan’s masterpiece reveals its true genius. The profound nature of Rich Homie Quan’s “Some Type of Way” is revealed only through a thorough and theoretical examination of the idea of a “type of way”; a detailed reading reveals that describing an emotion as “some type of way” is the only way to truly and accurately describe a feeling.

Approaching the song from Sign Theory, as described by Saussure, we can see that by intentionally neglecting to name a particular feeling, Rich Homie Quan creates a positive, and therefore unique, relationship between his feelings and the words used to describe it. Saussure describes the nature of speech by saying that, “in language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences without positive terms” (Richter 848). In Saussure’s view, concepts in language are defined only by what they are not; in is in because it is not out, hot is hot because it is not cold. Were Rich Homie Quan to name a particular emotion in his song, he would be defining his feelings only in the negative, describing them only as not being other feelings. However, our brilliant song-master does not do this. Instead, Rich Homie Quan leaves the particular way that he is feeling unnamed, thus refusing to define it in the negative. Thus, “some type of way” becomes a positive statement, eliminating the arbitrary nature of language and defining feeling on its own terms.

Similarly, a reading in the tradition of Foucault indicates that referring to a feeling as “some type of way” does not create arbitrary distinctions between feelings, thus accessing the “thing in itself” of feeling in a way that naming a particular feeling does, and can, not. According to Foucault, the act of creating a word creates a conceptual distinction, thus creating a category. These distinctions define ideas by their similarities, thus ignoring their differences. In creating the category of “cat”, one groups a series of animals by their similar characteristics, ignoring their individual differences is size, temperament, and color. Foucault argues that these distinctions are manufactured, and necessarily inexact. Rich Homie Quan rejects this convention, however, by refusing to categorize his feelings. By feeling “some type of way”, as opposed to “sad”, or “happy”, Quan does not create categories that ignore the complex and fluid nature of feeling, describing feelings as they are in reality.

After thoroughly analyzing “Type of Way”, it is clear that the song is a masterwork, calling into question our ideas of feeling and the nature of language. In this work, Rich Homie Quan forces us to wonder, should we really create distinctions between feelings, or should we reject our false system of naming, thus accessing feelings as they are, not just as they are described to be? These age-old questions have yet to be answered, but perhaps Rich Homie has brought us just a little closer

Or, you know, it’s a really awful, vague song. Either way.

Works Cited
Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.

Five Nights at Freddy’s: A Rhetorical Analysis

I’m not a fan of the horror genre. In any mode. I don’t like horror films, I don’t like horror TV shows, and I certainly don’t like horror video games. So, it was probably a bad idea for me to play Five Nights at Freddy’s, reportedly the scariest game in the history of scary things. I knew it was a bad idea when I started playing; after all, I had once had a nightmare from having watched the commercial for a Scooby-Doo movie.

Regardless, I played it. I played it, and it was terrifying. I spent several days thinking (and having nightmares about) nothing else, trying to determine why it was so scary. As a result, I have decided to embark deep into the realms of my favorite pastime, overanalyzing the rhetoric of pop culture. Are you ready kids? It’s time to talk about rhetoric, horror, and giant singing robots.

The premise of the game is quite simple, as is often the case with examples of effective psychological horror. You, the player, have just been hired as the night-watchman at a children’s themed restaurant, a la Chuck-E-Cheese. The facility is inhabited by large, animatronic animal figures, who apparently sing and dance during the day. It’s difficult to understand why they were selected to entertain children during working hours, considering that they become vicious murder machines at night, but no one ever claimed that this game made sense. Anyway, your job is to get through five nights (from midnight to six in the morning) without getting attacked by one of the creatures. Your only lines of defense are the two doors on either side of your control room, which you can open and close. You also have access to the security cameras, which go in and out of order, and the hallway lights. As a result, you can see the robots coming, then shut the doors to prevent them from reaching you.

Unfortunately, using any one of these things costs power, which you have very little of. To survive the game, you have to manage your power effectively, while trying not to lose track of any of the robots. If a robot enters the room, it will appear suddenly and emit what can only be described as a shriek, before the screen goes black.

It’s ridiculously hard.

Many aspects of this game fall very clearly in line with the conventions of the horror genre. There are flickering lights; grainy, black and white cameras; creepy children’s toys; jump scares; and unexplained noises (most notably the occasional singing and approaching footsteps of various robotic animals). Five Nights at Freddy’s operates entirely within the horror genre; there are little to no aspects of the game concept or aesthetic that are outside of the typical scope of horror.

However, the ways in which the game mechanics, also not particularly unique, and the aesthetics combine into one, cohesive experience results in one of the most immersive games I’ve ever played. Because there are so few actions you can take (close the doors, check the cameras, and switch on the lights), you are forced to become fully integrated into the world of the game and cannot be distracted by extraneous features. Surviving the game requires constant vigilance and attention to detail, which leaves you extra-sensitive to the jump-scares. There is no player–avatar and very little setting; there is only you, the cameras, and the enemy. As the game progresses, occasional flickers of the eponymous Freddy figure will flash momentarily in front of your eyes, simulating your growing fear and near-hallucinations.

Are you horrified yet? Because I am.

Are you horrified yet? Because I am.

All of these features are effective at creating an eerie atmosphere and sudden moments of fright, but the true genius of this game relies on the information-resource trade-off. To obtain more information about the whereabouts of the figures, you must use power. If you focus all of your power on the doors, you lose information. Moreover, you must often open the doors back up once you believe the puppets have left, making you feel even more vulnerable to an attack. To make matters worse, because you are so limited in both capacities, you never feel fully comfortable with either your resources or your information. Sometimes you have no choice but to lose information, as the cameras stop working or robots move just outside their reach. As the night progresses you slowly run out of power, knowing that when it is entirely gone the doors will open, the lights will turn off, and the robots will get you. When I played, the increasing sense of dread that I experienced as my power got lower and lower went so far beyond what I expected from a video game. I was running out of power. I was running out of power and there was nothing I could do.

Just before I lost the game, I was circulating through the cameras. I saw that the bunny was approaching on my left, but was not particularly close. I heard singing from the kitchen and quickly shuffled through my cameras to the right. I didn’t see anything. I immediately turned on the light right beside the door and there it was. The ducky. I managed to get the door closed and went back to the cameras, looking for the bunny. I couldn’t find it. I flipped through all of the cameras on my left, literally shouting, “Where is he? Where’s the bunny?” Deep down, I knew where he was. He was already here. The ducky was in the room with me. I switched views from the cameras back to the control station, only to have the bunny pop out in front of me and emit its demonic howl of triumph. I was dead.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night hiding under my covers, thinking that every creak or bump I heard was the approaching footstep of a murderous rabbit.

Thoughts On My Complicated Relationship With Grammar

Earlier this week, my coworker Ezekiel wrote a post about the relationship between grammar and colonialism (for the record, I strongly recommend reading Ezekiel’s post, which is very well thought-out in addition to being very right). In my experience as a Writing Center consultant and in my other work, I have also had an immense amount of difficulty with the infamous grammar issue, and I thought I would take this time to weigh in on the issue, which is far too complicated to solve in a few blog posts. I wanted to discuss more of my personal feelings on the matter and my own experiences.

As a future English as a Foreign Language teacher, I have to know a lot about grammar. More than that, I kind of like learning about grammar. I think language is interesting, and I enjoy learning about systems of rules and how they function and change over time.

That being said, I hate our society’s relationship with grammar. As a culture, we seem to have picked one dialect and decided that it is better and more important than all of the other English dialects present. Every dialect follows its own set of internal rules, which are, frankly, completely arbitrary. The vast majority of the time, these differences don’t inhibit clarity, so why do they matter? Elevating one set of rules above all other sets of rules and saying that it is “correct” seems silly at best, harmful at worst.

Picking and choosing which modes of speech are “better” than others is called “prescriptivism”. It is the belief that one vernacular is better than others, and all other systems are “wrong”. In the United States, prescriptivists have selected one dialect, called “Standard American English”, and decided that it is the “best” English, labeling all other dialects, such as African American Vernacular English or Yeshivish, inferior (I can’t help but wonder why it is that this particular dialect is labeled “Standard”. It begs the question posed by Linda Christensen: Standard according to whom?). People who speak other dialects are often labeled as “uneducated”, even though they may have the same educational background as a person who speaks “Standard” English. One dialect is considered “better” than the others, and people who speak that dialect are, sadly, often considered “better” than people who don’t.

I really want to emphasize that grammar is arbitrary. Language changes over time, and different regions or groups develop different systems for speech. These systems are all governed by rules, and they all have internal logic. Again, though, they are arbitrary. As an example, in British English it is common to drop an article before the name of a location, saying, for instance, “I am going to hospital” instead of “I am going to the hospital”. This construction is “incorrect” in “Standard” American English, but “correct” in British English. There is nothing better or worse about the two dialects, as each follows its own logic, even though the rules are different across systems.

So, why, in the United States, do we elevate one vernacular over another? Well, unfortunately, the answer is often rooted in racism and classism. As my coworker Ezekiel recently discussed, prescriptivism has its roots in colonialism. People of different ethnic or socioeconomic groups often have specific dialects of English, including African American Vernacular English, Chicano English, New York Latino English, and Hawaiian Creole English, among others. Because “Standard” English is spoken by the educated, white, upper class, it is considered the “best” form of English. I believe that this is wrong, and it is harmful to anyone who isn’t already privileged by virtue of their race and wealth. As Americans, our relationship with grammar is one that allows for implicit bias, and, ultimately, oppression.

I have worked with a lot of students from a variety of different cultures and classes, and I have personally seen intelligent, hardworking, and diligent people be looked down upon as a result of their “poor” English. This kind of bias is not only emotionally hurtful, it is actually detrimental to people’s potential employment. As an example, because the ACTs are written in “Standard” English, students who may not be as proficient run the risk of getting a poor score, which might limit their college choices and scholarship options. Students who do not wish to attend college may experience difficulty getting a job if their resume is not written in “proper” English. Watching my students suffer these kinds of loss of opportunity is frustrating, sad, and deeply, deeply offensive to me.

All of that being said, I do still teach grammar to my students. I answer grammar questions honestly, and I am willing to help students alter language that does not conform to “Standard” rules. I may not think that some dialects are better than others, but future teachers and future employers might. I want to be sure that my students have the tools necessary to succeed in an environment that I don’t agree with. Working with students who are terrified that their English skills might cost them a job means constantly working to improve their “Standard” English proficiency, regardless of my personal opinions. I might feel icky about it, but not everyone believes that grammar as a system can be oppressive like I do.

Ultimately, I try to tell my students that their languages and dialects are valid; there is nothing wrong with the non-standard vernaculars that many students use. However, learning the rules of “Standard” English can help them succeed, and I want success for them. I hope that some day we, as a culture, will become more accepting of different dialects, but, until then, I teach students the rules even while I teach them why it’s wrong that they have to learn them.

Starting a Sentence With Because

I’m going to be honest with you, there are some grammar rules that I really don’t care about. Actually, there’s a lot of them. Really, most of them. That being said, sometimes it’s important to know and follow the rules, because other people care about them no matter how silly they are.

And so, today, we are going to examine one of the sillier rules of grammar: whether you can or cannot start a sentence with “because”. A lot of people will say that you can’t start a sentence with “because” and be using “proper” grammar. While it is true that starting a sentence with “because” is usually “incorrect”, it’s only because it results in an incomplete sentence. Thus, sometimes you can start a sentence with “because” and still be in the clear. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

“Because” is a subordinating conjunction. A subordinating conjunction is a word that joins two clauses, one of which is independent and one of which is dependent. I know that’s a lot of jargon, but basically what we’re looking at is this: we have a sentence with two parts, and “because” joins them together. The two parts have to be in the same sentence for the use of “because” to be “correct”. Otherwise, one of the clauses becomes a sentence fragment, which is a problem.

The reason you can’t usually start a sentence with “because” is because the sentence needs two parts for because to join together. Usually, “because” goes in between the two clauses, so if we start a sentence with “because” there is often only one clause in the sentence. Put simply, if “because” is in a sentence, the sentence needs two parts to be “correct”. Let’s look at an example.

We decided to go to the pool because it was hot outside.

The two clauses we are looking at are “We decided to go to the pool” and “it was hot outside”. “Because” links them together and makes them friends. Let’s look at what would happen if we were to split the sentence up into two.

We decided to go to the pool. Because it was hot outside.

Now that the two clauses are in different sentences, “because” can’t really join them together. The clauses can’t be friends and now they’re lonely, making the second sentence “incorrect.”

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. Continue reading

I’m a Good Writer; Do I Need the Writing Center?

I spent a lot of time at AOP (Academic Orientation Program) this week, trying to pitch The Writing Center and its wonderful services to swarms of panicked freshman and their even more panicked parents. I talked to a lot of people who were interested in our services, but I was pretty confused by how frequently people didn’t want to hear my pitch, all saying some variation of, “Oh, I don’t need to know about you guys. I’m a good writer.”

I was shocked to hear this once, but I had person after person, including some parents, who seemed to think that the world is divided into “bad” writers, who use The Writing Center, and “good” writers, who never need any sort of help ever. Not only is this truly, patently false (after all, even the most successful novelists have editors, don’t they?), it just struck me as very sad. It would be terrifying to live in a world that is so high-stakes that the act of asking for help suddenly made me “bad” at something.

The truth is, everyone needs help. “Good” writers need help, not so “good” writers need help (I am uncomfortable saying that anyone who comes to The Writing Center is a “bad” writer, because just thinking about your writing and trying to improve is “good” enough for me. Coming to The Writing Center means you’re putting in effort, so that makes you “good” in my book). I see a lot of clients in the center who I would say are pretty great writers. In fact, a coworker of mine who is getting her PhD in writing recently signed up for an appointment with me. I have been a client at The Writing Center myself. Frequently.

The Writing Center is for everyone, because literally no one is perfect. The Writing Center is a great place to go if you are feeling unsure, if you have questions, or even if you just want to talk to someone about your ideas. I don’t want anyone to feel like coming to The Writing Center means they’re a “bad” writer, because it doesn’t. It just means that they’re a writer. And all writers can use someone to talk to once in a while.

So, whoever you are, come on by. We’d love to help.

Affect vs. Effect: When to Use Each

Sometimes, the English language is really silly. There are a lot of words that sound the same but are spelled differently and used differently, for virtually no reason. The words “affect” and “effect” are a classic example of two words that simply do not need to be this confusing.

Luckily, I have sat through enough boring grammar classes to understand the difference and hopefully I can help sort it out a little. Let’s dive right in, shall wee?

Affect:

In general, the word affect is used as a verb. A good way to remember this is that affect is an action. If you’re talking about something that someone does, it’s affect.

Example: The book really affected Sally’s opinion; she had never thought about parenting in that way before.

Because the book is acting upon Sally, we are using the word as an action so we say affect.

Effect:

In contrast, effect is used as a noun. The effect of something is the end-result. If you’re talking about an end product or situation, you’re going to want to use effect.

Example: The trial had a negative effect on the small town.

Because the negative feelings are the end product, we are using effect.

Sound good? Great! Because it’s about to get a little bit more complicated. Continue reading

How To Survive Finals Week Without Going Completely Crazy

Finals week sucks. There’s no way around it. I’ve been through four years worth of finals weeks, and they always suck. That being, I have developed some strategies for making it a little bit more bearable. If you can spare the time from studying, let’s talk about how to get through finals week with your sanity in tact.

1.    Plan ahead. Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Look at your deadline and work backwards to make a doable schedule for finishing everything. Working a fair amount for a few weeks is going to be a lot less stressful than working yourself to death for a few days. Give yourself plenty of time to get everything done to try to minimize your panic. This has the added benefit of breaking up your work into manageable chunks. It’s a lot less overwhelming to think about the next thing you have to do than think about all the things you have to do. Giving yourself a plan will be good for your schedule and your sanity.

2.    Take regular, scheduled breaks. I always tell myself I’m going to take a break after I finish this chapter or whatever, but by the time I finish the chapter it’s 2:00 in the morning and I don’t have time for a break any more. Tell yourself you’re going to take a break every three hours or so, regardless of how much work you have finished. Then, actually take the break. I know you can get so caught up in the finals week frenzy that you think you can’t spare the ten minutes of break time, but your studying will be a lot more efficient if you’ve taken the time to recharge, and you’ll actually finish more.

3.    Make sure your break is relaxing. I know it feels unproductive to take a break, but don’t trick yourself into doing different work when you should be relaxing. Take a bath, go for a jog, veg out with some television, whatever, just don’t do something that is going to continue to make you anxious, like cleaning. Your break should be relaxing or invigorating, not taxing and stressful.

4.    Engage in physical activity. Get up and move as much as possible during your study time. Sitting still for prolonged periods is really hard on your body; it will distract you from studying, and it will lessen the quality of your sleep. Take the time to go for a walk, do some yoga, or do whatever physical activity you enjoy. This is a great thing to do during your scheduled breaks. Even doing a few stretches or walking around your room will make you feel more relaxed, healthy, and focused.

5.    Get a good night’s sleep. I know. I know. You have to stay up all night studying. The thing is, your memories don’t consolidate until you’ve slept, so it’s better to get less studying done and then sleep than to get more studying done without sleeping. When you’re sleep deprived, you’re less productive, you have less memory retention, your reasoning skills are impaired, and, let’s face it, you’re totally crazy. Get some sleep. You’ll feel a lot better, and you’ll do better on your exams. I promise.

6.    Don’t get caught up in competition. Okay, so we all know that guy. That guy who wants to talk about how he did so much more studying than you and he stayed up so much later and he made so many more flashcards. And then you’re like, man, I need to make more flashcards and stay up even later. And pretty soon you’re chugging down five-hour energies surrounded by huge stacks of flashcards, slowly losing your grip on reality. Don’t do that. Study as much as you need to, not whatever arbitrary amount will make you feel like you have suffered the most.

7.    Take the time to see some friends, but only ones that have a positive effect. Hang out with friends who are going to really relax you and help you unwind. Don’t hang out with anyone who is going to freak you out, or who is going to distract you from your studies too much. They can wait until next week.

8.    Try not to sweat it. Grades are important, but they aren’t worth your sanity.  Worst comes to worst, you get a bad grade. It’s not ideal, but it’s not going to ruin your life. Do your best, but don’t let yourself lose sight of what’s really important: your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. You can do it. Good luck.

How to Write A Good Thesis Statement

Thesis statements are hard to write. There, I said it. As an English major people usually assume that I have some sort of internal thesis generator that spits out finely tuned arguments instantly. This is not true. I often spend an embarrassing amount of time wading through poorly drafted theses (yes, that is the plural) before I finally land on something that works.

That being said, your thesis is important and it deserves a lot of time and attention. It can be difficult to figure out exactly what a good thesis looks like, especially because many professors seem to be unable to present a good definition of what a thesis is. Basically, a thesis statement is a sentence (or several sentences) that outlines the argument you will be defending in your paper. This can seem like a bit of a vague definition, but if you break up the goals of your thesis, it becomes a lot more manageable.

A good thesis statement accomplishes three purposes:

  1. It introduces the topic at hand and gives a reader an idea of what to expect out of the paper.
  2. It presents your argument.
  3. It demonstrates the importance of your argument, giving the reader more reason to be invested in your essay.

Let’s look at some examples of possible thesis statements, and see whether or not they accomplish these goals.

  • This is a paper about Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions.

This thesis accomplishes goal number 1, but it doesn’t accomplish the other two goals. For a thesis to successfully present the argument of your paper, someone needs to be able to disagree with it. Because there is no opposing viewpoint to this statement, it does not function as a successful thesis. Your thesis should be a strong argument, which the reader can choose to agree or disagree with.

  • Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions introduced several conventions to the field of autobiography, which helped to create and define the genre of the confessional.

This thesis is better, in that it does present an argument. A potential reader could disagree with the idea that Confessions defined the confessional genre, so this thesis accomplishes both of the first two goals of a successful thesis. However, this thesis does not accomplish the third goal. There should be some sort of importance to your argument; maybe your thesis has implications outside of the specific argument that you’re making, or maybe there is a specific benefit to thinking about the topic in the way that you advocate. In argumentative essays, an easy way to demonstrate the importance of your argument is to provide a “call to action”, in which you ask the reader to do something with your information, such as advocate a change in policy. In literary critiques, it can be helpful to pull your thesis outside of the text and talk about broad implications of your arguments. It is difficult to create a thesis that accomplishes all three of your goals, but it is crucial for having a successful essay.

  • Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions introduced several conventions to the field of autobiography, which helped to create and define the genre of the confessional. Because many of these conventions persist within the confessional genre to this day, gaining an understanding of the devices used within Confessions can provide valuable context to contemporary confessional novels.

Although this thesis is a bit wordy, it does accomplish all three of the goals of a successful thesis. The reader knows what you plan to discuss in the paper, what you are going to argue about your topic, and why it is important. Presenting a fully developed thesis, such as this one, will allow you to write a strong essay.

Writing a thesis with this much depth is tricky. Personally, I find it extremely difficult to break through to a thesis that accomplishes more than the first two goals right away.  Something that I have often noticed in my own writing is that I will write an entire paper on what I think is my thesis, only to find that a more in-depth, well-developed thesis appears in for the first time in the conclusion. If you’re having trouble with your thesis, it may be a good idea to begin writing your paper, and only finalize your thesis once you have already started analyzing your topic. Not only does this take the pressure off of you in the beginning, it allows you plenty of time to truly develop your ideas before you draft your actual thesis.

Thesis statements are hard, but they are important, and they are certainly writeable. If you have a good understanding of your topic and its importance, your thesis is in there somewhere. The only real obstacle is teasing it out and refining it so that it best reflects your thoughts. Good luck.

How to Write a Good Introduction

Since the dawn of man, writing has been used to communicate ideas. In academic settings, ideas are typically communicated using formal types of writing such as essays. Most academic essays contain an introductory paragraph, which includes a thesis.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an introduction as, “A preliminary explanation prefixed to or included in a book or other writing; the part of a book which leads up to the subject treated, or explains the author’s design or purpose. Also, the corresponding part of a speech, lecture, etc.”

Michigan State University student Sally used to have a lot of difficulty writing introductions. Once she had suffered through writing dozens of painful introductions, she decided to look up some tips on how to introduce your essay, and after that she got a lot better.

Introductions can be tricky. Because the introduction is the first portion of your essay that the reader encounters, the stakes are fairly high for your introduction to be successful. A good introduction presents a broad overview of your topic and your thesis, and should convince the reader that it is worth their time to actually read the rest of your essay. Below are some tips that will make writing an introduction a little less daunting, and help us all to write essays that don’t make our professors want to bang their heads against the wall.

  1. Start your introduction broad, but not too broad. When I first started writing formal essays, I didn’t really know how broad to go with my intros. A brief paragraph on Hamlet would suddenly include irrelevant details about Shakespeare’s childhood, then grow out to be a history of Western literature, and then a history of the universe itself. Do not write an introduction like this; this kind of intro is confusing and makes the reader wonder where exactly you’re going with your essay. Your introduction should provide the reader with a sense of what they should expect out of your essay, not to expound upon every piece of knowledge ever developed by man. Go ahead and start relatively broad, then narrow to your thesis, but make sure you’re still on topic.
  2. Provide relevant background, but don’t begin your true argument. It’s fine to give a bit of context to your essay in the introduction, but the real meat of your argument should be located in your body paragraphs. A good test to see if information should go in a body or introductory paragraph is to ask yourself a few questions. Is this providing context or evidence? Does this introduce my argument, or try to prove it?  True evidence or proof deserves a body paragraph. Context and background most likely belong in your introduction.
  3. Provide a thesis. The majority of the time, your thesis, or main argument, should occur somewhere towards the end of your introduction. It is a typical convention to put your thesis as the last sentence of your first paragraph. My personal opinion is that it can sometimes be awkward to shove your thesis in one specific place if it doesn’t necessarily fit, but if your thesis works in that position, that is the best place for it. That being said, if you absolutely can’t include your thesis in that location, go ahead and stick it somewhere else. Continue reading

Flappy Bird: A Critical Analysis

The last week has seen the meteoric rise and fall of Flappy Bird. I first heard of Flappy Bird on a Tuesday, and by Thursday the creator of the game announced that he was removing it from circulation. As far as simple and addicting flash games go, no game has ever inspired such joy and such rage as Flappy Bird. But how can one explain the tragic trajectory of Flappy Bird’s success and, ultimately, failure? What does our love and our hatred of Flappy Bird say about the human condition? What are the implications of Flappy Bird on reality itself? Brace yourselves, dear readers, as we embark on an exploration into the deep depths of this cruel and short-lived game.

Flappy Birds screenshot The player avatar and titular character of Flappy Bird, is, of course, the bird. However, this pixelated avian calls into question the very concept of “bird”. Indeed, the “bird” of Flappy Bird appears less like a bird, and more like a beach ball with fish lips. Moreover, this creature has no seeming birdlike traits or motivations. According to Michel Foucault, our system of language creates almost arbitrary categories, overemphasizing the similarities between objects and ignoring the differences. By presenting such a tenuous “bird”, is Flappy Bird urging us to abandon our current system of animal classification? Would the “bird” of Flappy Bird be better classified as a different organism? Should we classify organisms at all?

Moreover, Flappy Bird questions our concept of “the pipe”, through the endless stream of Mario-esque pipes that scroll onto the screen from the right. Unlike the universe of Mario, in which pipes have some meaning, due to Mario’s occupation as a plumber, the pipes of Flappy Bird are out of place and even bizarre. How did these pipes come to be hanging from the sky? Why do they enter ceaselessly onto the screen? Is there a purpose or a deeper meaning to the pipes? Through the use of Mario pipes, not only the character of Flappy Bird, but the setting is deconstructed and dismantled.

Indeed, Flappy Bird seems to call into question the idea of “the game” itself. There is no progression in Flappy Bird. There is no winning, only losing. There is no success, only failure. One could argue that Flappy Bird is not truly a game, but an endless exercise in futility. In this way, Flappy Bird mimics the cruelty of life. In the world of Flappy Bird, as in the world of the human, there is no “winning”, only an endless series of obstacles that will one day cause failure. It is almost comforting to know that Flappy Bird contains nothing unexpected. The first pipe is the same as the last pipe. Is Flappy Bird the only predictable thing in this cruel and inconstant world? Continue reading